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The Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 2 February 2021 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Education Shelf Computer Shelf
Technology Shelf General Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

A Rendezvous to Remember
Terry Marshall & Ann Garretson Marshall
Sandra Jonas Publishing House
9781733338653, $32.95, HC, 378pp

A Rendezvous to Remember: A Memoir of Joy and Heartache at the Dawn of the Sixties will touch readers who like stories of evolving relationships. It opens in 1964 in Boulder, Colorado, where Terry is saying goodbye to Ann, his college best friend and sweetheart, who is on her way to Germany to visit his competitor for her affections: Lieutenant Jack Sigg. Terry is deeply worried that he will lose her forever. This shared memoir moves between Ann and Terry's perspectives, creating clear movement between the two with chapter headings that never leave readers wondering about who is "talking." We also get insight into Jack through his many letters to Ann and the European grand tour the two of them take in his Corvette convertible.

These first-person narratives weave interpersonal interactions into an overall flavor of the times, from politics to social environment. This approach adds a fine inspection not just of the independent lives of two want-to-be lovers separated by their perspectives and backgrounds, but of their lives apart as they reflect on what could have been (and still could be). Descriptions of sentiments rooted in the times are particularly compelling, drawing readers into events, as well as into the emotional responses they elicited, and the resulting challenge to ideals, dreams, and perceptions of the world. The story transcends personal autobiography alone, charting the course of not just two disparate lives, but also a nation. A Rendezvous to Remember is highly recommended reading for anyone who has wondered what coming of age in America in the 1960s was really like. Should social history be this closely inspected from the vantage point of hindsight? The answer from this memoir is a resounding "yes."

The Education Shelf

1st Grade At Home: Reading & Math Skills
The Princeton Review
9780525571735, $12.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 288pp

Just in time for COVID's new demands on parents to step into the role of educator is 1st Grade At Home: Reading & Math Skills, one of four books in a new 'Learn at Home' line of materials. Parents interested in helping their kids through elementary school will find this book provides structured grade-level lessons (16 in math and 16 in reading) that reinforce remote learning processes. Activities encourage parents to read aloud and interact with their first-graders as they provide information and activities that include notes on 'what to watch for' and 'what to know' that help parents understand the pitfalls along the way to success. The result is an outstanding approach highly recommended for parents who want to be supportive of newly at-home young learners, but don't know how to achieve these goals.

The Computer Shelf

Angular and Deep Learning Pocket Primer
O. Campesato
Mercury Learning
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605
9781683924739, $39.95 PB, $34.95 Kindle, 342pp

Adding to the 'Pocket Primer' series is a fine introduction to basic deep learning approaches to Angular 10 applications, offering computer users a fast way to applying knowledge to real-world activities. Computer users should expect discussions of basic deep learning concepts, accompanied by algorithms and code files that demonstrate how these concepts work in the Angular 10 environment. Chapters cover TensorFlow 2 and Keras as they examine subjects such as pipes and UI controls, data binding models, architectures for deep learning, and creating histograms, heat maps, and more. Those seeking a quick learning approach to Angular and the deep learning environment will find this pocket primer's examples and references lend nicely to refresher courses and new introductions alike.

The Technology Shelf

Plasma Antennas, second edition
Theodore Anderson
Artech House
685 Canton St, Norwood, MA 02062
9781630817503, $169.00, HC, 388pp

The second updated edition of Plasma Antennas offers an updated survey on antenna beams and physics, offering details about many of the new smart plasma antenna systems and their applications to everything from GPS to 5G networks. The science and operations of plasma antennas are described in detail and supported by charts, math, and science; but the focus on the latest series of plasma antennas and their revolutionary applications in a variety of endeavors makes for a second edition that has been extensively revamped. The schematics, charts, and color photos illustrating basic plasma antenna concepts leave nothing to wonder and are invaluable in exploring the plasma antenna's expanding uses. This should be on the shelf of any antenna engineer student or practicing engineer.

The General Fiction Shelf

Dirt Road Main Street
Cynthia L. Clark
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Rd, Parker, CO 80134
9781977234506, $18.95 Paper, $3.99 Kindle, 278pp

Readers of romantic thrillers who seek a winning combination of intrigue surrounding a romantic fling that haunts years later will find Dirt Road Main Street a cut above the ordinary. Two disparate individuals meet after a music concert in a chance encounter that involves band member Tano giving a lift to stranded girl Holly. Tano is on his way to success in several ways, but as the years pass, he just can't forget his intense ride with Holly and the unrequited possibilities that emerged from that short encounter. And so he throws caution to the wind and decides to track her down with little more to go on than her first name and the tiny town of Sage, Oklahoma, where he left her standing on the dirt road main street.

A series of events evolves from this decision that brings them together, introducing more than one danger into their lives as they struggle with the insanity of the world around them, which threatens to drag them both down. Readers who expect Dirt Road Main Street to be a singular lost-then-found-again love story will be delighted by its complexity. The tale moves from loss and rediscovery to elements of introspection and realization that questions the possibility and validity of love and strength. Holly is no infatuated silly girl, but a strong young woman following her own destiny.

Tano's self-made careers are also something he never contemplated sharing or compromising with another. His pride prevented him from revealing his heart the first time; but even when he embarks on a journey newly determined to pursue a different outcome, he discovers barriers that challenge not just his ability to love, but to survive.

Author Cynthia L. Clark injects just the right degree of physical and emotional connection into her story to give it a compelling romantic focus while maintaining other elements of intrigue and threat that balance out each character's realizations. When Tano left her the first time, it was with the certainty that Holly needs to find her direction first; and that this likely won't involve him. When he pursues her the second time, five years later, it's with the realization that no woman he's met since can compare with the connection they made during that journey. His growth, and hers, are central to the story, giving them the added power to not just pursue a relationship with each other, but survive everything from jilted exes to the threat of violence.

Holly's discovery that Tano is not finished with her is the beginning of a change that ripples through their lives and everyone around them. It also will ripple through readers looking for more than a predictable romance, who will appreciate the elements of suspense added into the mix and the uncertainty of whether Holly and Tano's shared love of music and each other will lead them out of danger and into a life together.

Dirt Road Main Street is nicely steeped in music, action, and emotion. It will delight readers looking for the trappings of a good romance along with the added value of something greater.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

A Life for a Life
Lynda McDaniel
Independently Published
9780997780802, $14.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 327pp

Della Kincaid has been a crime reporter for decades, honing her craft until she needs a break from her profession. A move to a quiet mountain community seems just the ticket for peace and quiet...or, is it? A Life for a Life presents a mystery steeped in fine contrasts between past and present, rural and urban life, a quiet lifestyle versus a vivid sense of purpose, and community involvement. All these elements place Della in the hot seat of contention. A startling prologue sets the scene, opening not with Della's perspective (as so many authors might have chosen), but from a teenager's viewpoint when newcomer Della Kincaid buys his father's store. From the opening line, readers know they're in for a unique voice and a compelling treat: "My life was saved by a murder. At the time, of course, I didn't understand that. I just knew I was having the best year of my life. Given all the terrible things that happened, I should be ashamed to say it, but that year was a blessing for me." The prologue introduces co-writer Abit, who reflects on the spring when everything changes. This contrasts neatly with the opening of the first chapter, which embraces Della's point of view.

The first-person reminisces of 1985's life-changing events then evolves to provide a solid foundation for exploring the unexpected, from murder to the North Carolina mountain communities that confront an unprecedented threat and danger. As Abit and Della form an unlikely association and travel through the world of accused murderers released and unidentified dangers, Abit's regional colloquialisms spice the story and contrast nicely with Della's staid approach and observations. As events unfold, this sense of place, time, and community brings the story to life in a realistic, refreshing fashion that draws readers into not just the mystery, but the conflicts that lie at the heart of each character's life. Della finds past and present on a collision course, and Abit's world changes. Lynda McDaniel's ability to probe life as well as death makes this murder mystery a delight. It's a fantastic probe into the lives of everyone involved in a life-changing situation that grabs the reader's heartstrings and tugs on them to the unexpected conclusion.

Mystery readers will find A Life for a Life a real treat, highly recommended for its fine attention to both detail and the psyches of investigators who confront themselves as much as the threat at hand.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471

Two new sci-fi titles offer intriguing stories from well-known writers and promise to give genre fans exciting new tales to enjoy.

Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon's Sassinak (9781982124922, $16.00) tells of preteen Sassinak who was twelve when the slavers raided her world. Sassy is no victim, however, but a spirited young woman determined to make her own way in the world as a free woman. From her strength to her friendship choices, Sassy waits for freedom, only to find it poses new challenges as she becomes a fleet captain on a pirate-chasing ship who is facing unemployment when her prey becomes scarce.

Fans of military sci-fi with a weird twist will appreciate the collection Sean Patrick Hazlett edits in Weird World War II (9781982124915, $16.00), which provides twists on alternate history scenarios that involve various scenarios based on a war with the Soviet Union that evolved into a battle on the astral plane. Mike Resnick, T.C. McCarthy, David Drake, and other Baen mainstays join forces to provide riveting short stories that traverse the boundaries of physical, historical, and psychic battles. Both are intriguing reads.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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